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December 2007

November 2007 entries

Judge Not!

I spoke this morning to a group of students and teachers at Covington Seminary. Now, it wasn't my best stuff, but it was pretty good. I could not help but notice one student on the front row who fell asleep only minutes into my meaningful and life changing monologue. How rude. If you are going to sleep, you need to move to the back row where all the other "bless me if you can" congregants congregate. But this guy had the audacity to snore at my feet.

After the message was finished and he was at least partially awake the man approached me before anyone else could say a word. I honestly thought he was going to berate me for disturbing his nap. Instead, he tearfully apologized for sleeping during my message. It seems his wife was in a car accident last night and he had stayed with her up until class time. He had been without sleep for many hours. He apologized again and again and then asked me to pray for his wife and I did. Now I feel the need to pray for myself. I judged this man before I ever knew what was happening in his life and I wondered how many times a day I do the same thing with others. Rather than appreciating this man's efforts to listen to my message I judged him as rude. If we just took the time to listen to the stories of those God puts in our path everyday we may just judge people a little less harshly. I needed to be reminded of that and maybe you did too.

On my knees,

Pastor Ken         

Goodbye Belmont

Well it's official, Belmont University is no longer Baptist. Just a couple of years ago the school elected trustees without the consent or approval of Tennessee Baptists, something they agreed in writing to never do. They claimed to discover a document written years ago that demanded repayment of all monies given to the university from Tennessee Baptists after they had chosen their trustees. Dismissing, at first, as a careless mistake they continued to distance themselves from the TBC. Then, realizing that argument would not hold water, they claimed the document was no longer valid since it was written so many years ago. Then they requested documents from hundreds of Tennessee Baptist churches detailing contributions to the university. This was most likely just a legal ploy to get enough churches angry enough so they would petition the leadership in Brentwood to drop everything and let them go. That didn't work. What do you do when you are stuck in a legal agreement and can't find a way to get free without a fight; a fight you will most probably lose? You employ the tested and true "buy your way out of a jam" technique. So just before the annual meeting of Tennessee Baptist in early November the two sides would come to an agreed upon settlement. Instead of paying the $58 million they rightfully owed the TBC the would pay $1 million up front and $10 million more in $250,000 annual increments over the next 40 years.

So instead of paying the $58 million they truly owed they ended paying less that 20% of their debt. I wonder how my mortgage banker would respond if I offered to pay 20% of my debt over the next 40 years. Truthfully, unless it was offered to me, I would be ashamed to even propose the idea. I have enough integrity to pay what I rightfully owe without threatening to tie someone up in court for years. Given the actions of the leadership of Belmont University I for one am happy that they are no longer associated with Baptists in Tennessee. We do enough on our own to give ourselves black eyes without inviting someone to "sucker punch" us. So long Belmont. Just remember, you reap what you sow.             

Happy Thanksgiving

Gravy Before you go comatose after devouring your portion of the 45 million turkeys that will be consumed in the U.S. tomorrow I would like to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Don't forget to thank God for every blessing. It seems to me that when we take blessings for granted we become less thankful, and as we are less thankful we also lose our joy. So thank God for your friends and family. Thank Him for your church and your job. Look for an opportunity to add value to another by telling them how thankful you are for the contribution they have made to the quality of your life. And to all of you who read this blog consistently , many whom I have never met, thank you for being there. I am often taken back by the number of times people comment on what they have read here. Most recently I have been amazed at how many people connected with "Ode to the Aluminum Christmas Tree." I guess we are a lot more alike than we may have assumed. So loosen your belt, or at least wear something "stretchy", dig in and worry about the calories Friday. And remember, "Gravy is a vegetable."   

iPod Inspiration

It's Saturday morning and I'm having my first cup of coffee. Our youngest son is about to turn 17 so I'm online checking out the times for todays showing of "Beowulf." We're going together to celebrate. He has always been a reader of sci-fi and the classics too. You can actually learn alot from your kids if you will just listen. I was at J103 this week to record a couple of radio spots when the on-air person said something like "you're dressed cool today." It was a pair of jeans, t-shirt and jacket, nothing special. I realized as a 50 year old Baptist pastor it probably wasn't what they were used to. I said to the DJ "When you have a couple of teenage sons I guess they influence the way you dress." (I didn' have the energy to explain that one was seventeen and the other 21. I may dress younger but I still have the patience of a 50 year old.)

Not only do they influence the way I dress and think, but they can teach you a thing or two about technology as well. Recently Andy, the seventen year old, was showing me the difference between an iPod and other mp3 players. I was leaning toward the mp3 because of price and he was trying to convince me I was making a mistake. He said you didn't get the iTunes with the mp3 and that I would regret it. Well, he was right. I bought the video iPod with 8 gigs and plugged it in my laptop. I searched on the names of all my favorite speakers and pastors. Did you know that these guys put their messages on iTunes and most of them are free. I know to some of you this is old news, but to me it was an epiphany. I listen to sermons as inspiration just like a musician will listen to bands for the same reason. This is awsome. You can subscribe to their site and have them downloaded whenever they post new ones. Adam saw me walk into the house a couple of days ago with the ear buds in and said, "you're addicted to that thing." He was mocking me with my own words. I had said that to both boys at times. Busted. I don't go anywhere without my iPod. It was worth 10 times what I paid for it in the belly of a 747 for 14 1/2 hours on the way to Hong Kong.

Not to be outdone, we are signing a contract this week with a new web site designer and one of the things we will do is get my talks on iTunes. Watch for it to happen. I'll keep you updated here. A lot of you tell me you listen to the messages at home on your computer. If nothing else, on a night when your having a hard time getting to sleep,  you can put the ear buds in and I can help you get to sleep. I've got to go now. The latest video podcast from Mosaic church in LA has just sync'd with my iPod.

About to get inspired.....Pastor Ken                  

Ode to the Aluminum Christmas Tree

Well, it's that time of year again. At least at our house. It's Christmas. Disregard the 65 degrees outside and the fact that leaves haven't fully turned nor let go. Thanksgiving is still nine days away, but at the Duggan ranch, it's CHRISTMAS. I always tend to blame the premature celebration on my wife, but if the truth were known I am just as much at fault as she is. I have my XM dialed in to channel 103, the all sappy, all the time, Karen Carpenter and Johnny Mathis Christmas music station.

Around the house are less than gentle reminders of the holiday season that is already in full swing. Bright Christmas ornaments are twisted around the dining room light. The table is set with holiday dishes. Wreaths are hanging on mirrors and doors. The stockings are hung by sparkling Christmas package hooks across the mantle. A glass manger scene anchors one end of the shelf above the fireplace. Christmas pillows are slung on every sofa and chair. (A new one this year reads, "Dashing through the dough!" Very appropriate) I am, just this evening, going to break out the vintage 1960's Santa head with red cellophane wreath and hang it in the window of my study.

But, nothing says Christmas like an aluminum Christmas tree. Yes, bloggers and blogettes, I said aluminum. You know the tree that is festively illuminated by an electric color wheel. Well, at the Duggan ranch, we have two. Matter of fact, we've already burned the bulb out in one. It's awesome! An aluminum Christmas tree demands respect. It just jumps out at you when you walk into the family room. It refuses to be ignored as it changes from one magical color to another as the colored wheels spin off each flank.

You may think we have an aluminum tree just because I like to be different and somewhat rebellious. You are, of course, at least partially correct, but not entirely. Like many of you I come from a broken home. Christmas from age 10 and on was a little strained to say the least. Spending time with one parent in the morning and with the other in the afternoon. I longed for things to be the way they used to be. The way things were at my friend's house. Where mom and dad would wake the kids up and they would open presents together. After age 10 it was never the same. But before the divorce we had a great time at Christmas. We weren't well off...we couldn't even see "well off" from where we lived so toys were few and far between. I took the Christmas catalogs from Sears and J.C. Penney's and circled all the toys I wanted for that Christmas. One of them would be under the tree. Along with a new pack of tidy white underwear and a bag of tube socks there would always be that one toy. It would always be under that sparkling, ever changing, bright silver metallic Christmas tree. So forgive me for my "Ode to the Aluminum Christmas Tree", but lying underneath that tree brings back some of my happiest memories, and happy memories are too valuable to wait until after Thanksgiving to unwrap.

In His Shadow,

Pastor Ken     Christmas_tree

Following the Pattern of God

I have come to learn from experience that "questioners" come from basically two camps. The first group sees things as they are and ask, "Why can't they be the way they used to be?" The second group sees things the way they are and ask, "Why can't we be like those guys?" Usually the second groups referring to some radical fringe element of the 21st century church. I have experienced that in just the last few days. Comments and "personal" letters are always questioning the way we do things at DBBC. And that's OK. Significant leaps forward have always come from elements in the church who question why.

Martin Luther asked why people had to come to the church for forgiveness. Galileo asked why the church insisted that the earth was at the center of the universe when all scientific and mathematical evidence came to other conclusions. Both of these men learned an important lesson; "Questioners" are not welcome in the established church! That's why I try and not dismiss those who question a decision or a resulting action I make at church. I certainly do not claim "ex-cathedra" dogmatism as did Luther's superiors. I understand that sometimes the voice of God may become more clear as He speaks through those who are legitimate "questioners" and not just mal-contents. While I believe God gives the vision of the church to the person He has called to lead, namely the pastor, I also believe that others who are in touch with the Spirit of God can also help shed some light on the path where the vision is leading.

I write this just to say that I am always evaluating the effectiveness of what we do at DBBC in light of the vision God has given. No program or practice is ever written in stone. I am aware that what worked just a couple of years ago may not be effective today. One of the things I respect about Ed Young Jr. at Fellowship Church in Dallas is his willingness to adapt. Most recently I noticed his dress was changing to a more formal look (sport coat and slacks) from his previously more casual attire (jeans and a t-shirt). In a recent email from his Creative Pastors web site he noted that recently he had a come-forward invitation and over 700 either re-dedicated their lives to Christ or became followers of Christ for the first time. I doubt that this will become the norm, but I'm sure he is aware, as I have become, that contemporary today is traditional tomorrow. I think our Lord set the pattern as He has always been careful not to repeat Himself. He destroyed the world once with water. He is going to use fire the next time. He only spoke through one burning bush and one stubborn mule. Jesus would heal a blind man by just declaring His sight to be restored and the next time He would make mud out of spit and dust and place the salve on a blind man's eyes. Oh yeah, and the cross, that only happened once too. I think God gave us the pattern. Keep people on their toes. Don't be different for the sake of being different but for the sake of effectiveness. Mix things up. Pull some things from the past to re-invent them in the future. Don't imitate others. Make others want to imitate you.

These are some things I've been thinking as God has brought people in my life who are willing to question, "Why?" So watch for tweaks in the ways things are done. Pray that God has the freedom at DBBC to do what He needs to accomplish His vision and hang on.

In His Shadow,

Pastor Ken